Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fast Food Review: Popeyes Red Hot Popcorn Chicken

When it comes to fast food chicken - especially popcorn chicken - I love Popeyes. I can't believe how many years I spent eating KFC's popcorn chicken (although I suppose that was more a matter of convenience; I worked for years a couple hundred feet from a KFC and ate it much more than I should have) before I discovered how much more I like Popeyes. 

And I love spicy food. I don't eat habañeros whole (well, I once took a bite of one to see how it would be: that was a mistake) and I have a disdain for those vaguely chemical-tasting sauces with clever names that do nothing but add painful heat and no flavor to a dish but look really cool sitting on your shelf (and indeed I do have a small bottle of "The Hottest Fuckin' Sauce" sitting in my pantry). But a flavorful pepper, no matter how spicy, is always a welcome addition to my food. 

At the aforementioned job I worked with a Mexican/Salvadoran guy who shared my love for hot sauces, and he had an encyclopedic knowledge of every brand. (He taught me the joys of Valentina hot sauce with roasted garlic pizza, a combination that is to Tabasco on pizza as a draft Guinness and beer-battered fish & chips is to a warm Budweiser and freezer-burned fish sticks.) His dad grew chiltepin peppers in the yard and my coworker would take a few ("My dad likes me taking as many as I want or the neighbors come over and steal them all") and we would soak them in a bottle of barbecue sauce for a few days before dipping KFC's popcorn chicken into the sauce.

So when Popeyes started a promotion the other day for "Red Hot" popcorn chicken, it was something that I had to try. The chicken is advertised as being marinated with a blend of white, black, cayenne and habanero peppers.

It took a while to find it, though. I recruited Elizabeth to join me over the weekend on a jaunt to get some; the Popeyes we visited said they did not have it "but it should be in soon." I tried another Popeyes by myself and was greeted with that familiar blank stare when I inquired about the product. "No, we aren't going to be getting anything like that," I was told.

Finally, yesterday, I found a Popeyes that carries the product. (This was pretty much by accident; it's not like I was driving around all day visiting different Popeyes. Well, not entirely.) The chicken is advertised for $2.99, or in a combo with fries, a biscuit and a drink for $3.99. I opted for the latter.

I ate it in the car. (I busted up my shoulder Sunday evening slipping on the stairs playing rugby on an asphalt parking lot and I had my arm wrapped up in a makeshift sling that looks like my grandmother's couch. I didn't feel like going inside.) There wasn't very much chicken in the order but what was there was delicious - hot, crispy, and obviously just out of the fryer. And spicy. Not terribly spicy, but a nice amount of pepper flavor that is unmistakable.

I have always liked Popeyes "Delta Sauce," a spicy mayo-pepper sauce that gives McDonald's hot mustard sauce a run for the money as my favorite fast food condiment. So I got a couple containers of it. (The first one was free, the second cost me a quarter.) It wasn't necessary. The whole was less than the sum of the parts: the popcorn chicken was so flavorful it did not need any sauce.

I am not sure how long the Red Hot variety of the popcorn chicken will be available. Hopefully longer than the annual autumn crawfish. I would be glad to try these again, but I don't feel any need to rush out and get them again anytime soon.


Cafe Observer said...

I wunder where the nearest Popeyes to Pasadena that carries it?

JustinM said...

I didn't actually visit the Popeyes in Pasadena, so they might have it.

Anonymous said...

PP- where did you keep this bbq sauce that you soaked peppers in for a few days? don't tell me the (usually) funky office fridge.

JustinM said...

Okay, I won't tell you that.